A reporter interviewed me earlier this week for a story on fundraising in a recession. As a follow up, he asked if I had tips to give nonprofits. Here’s what I wrote. I hope they’re helpful!
- Keep Asking! Treat your donor like an adult and let her make the decision about whether this is a good time to give or not. Don’t try to make up her mind for her.
- Get the Facts: Studies have shown that Americans are very generous, even in economic downturns. In fact, giving has increased practically every year since World War II. People will be giving this year, why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to give to your organization?
- Keep Your Friends Close: Keeping existing donors is always more cost effective than finding new donors. Now is an especially great time to reach out to people who’ve given to you in the past but maybe not in the last year or two.
- Stay Upbeat: Fundraisers tend to be some of the most upbeat people around. They’ve found that people don’t give to pessimism. So work hard to be realistic but to also find the silver lining in any given situation.
- Admit to Donors that Times are Tough: Being upbeat doesn’t mean mindlessly attempting to “positive think” your way around difficulties. Being honest about difficulties—both those of the organization and those of the donor—can actually strengthen relationships.
- Be Flexible: Donors are facing varying degrees of economic uncertainty. Some may nee to extend their pledge commitments. Help them by being flexible.
- Don’t Beat Up Your Regular Donors: Resist the urge to beat up your donors with multiple panic-stricken year-end letters and emails. Focus on the impact your nonprofit is making in the community and ask them to invest continue being part of those great works. But don’t abuse them.
- Think Strategically: Economic downturns cause all of us to tighten our belts a bit. But before you do across the board cuts, look at what you’ve been investing in and determine if the cost is worth the results. At Inland, we made the startling discovery that cutting costs by reducing mailings actually resulted in a fundraising drop of 30%! This year they increased their mailings and raised as much in six months as they had in the entire previous year, despite the economic uncertainty. Spending extra money may yield tens of thousands of dollars more in donations.
- Keep Investing in Professional Development: Our organizations need us to keep being sharp and staying up with what is working in our career. Unfortunately, professional development is often one of the first things to be cut from a budget. There are lots of great fundraising seminars, podcasts, webinars, and blogs. Many of them are free and allow you to learn right at your desk.
- Be sure to Check Out Social Media: You need to have conversations where your donors are. Many of them may be on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. You should be too! These tools are free and can help you develop relationships with people already interested in your cause. They may even help you develop donors beyond your geographical limits too. Tools like Twitter or Qik can help you “attend” the fundraising seminars and confrences mentioned about without leaving your desk!
[For more ideas on using Twitter for fundraising, see Twitter for Nonprofits]